Hidden Key Player Behind the Scene of HONG's Films
HONG Sangsoo’s internationally-acclaimed films have a hidden key player behind the scene in common. In fact, this player deserves to be called not merely a hidden assistant but a partner for HONG. This partner is producer KIM Kyoung-hee. Her name began to appear in the credits of Like You Know It All (2009). Starting with that film, KIM began to manage the general affairs of Jeonwonsa Film Co. where director HONG works as CEO. Since then, KIM has been working as the producer of HONG’s films such as Hahaha (2010), Oki's Movie (2010), The Day He Arrives (2011), In Another Country (2011), Nobody’s Daughter Haewon and Our Sunhi.
This fact is a very special one because HONG can tell those who can work well with him from those who cannot. HONG believes that his films contain the characters of those who work with him. This includes actors, actresses and staff members. Therefore, HONG prefers to work only with those who pass his standards after a long evaluation. Whenever he makes a film, the film manifests their characters and capabilities. Among them, producer KIM Kyoung-hee is HONG’s closest aide.
KIM was a film directing major – She studied cinema in France for nearly six years. When HONG’s team came to Paris to shoot Night and Day (2008), his eighth film, KIM volunteered to work as a member of the local direction team. It was natural for her as she had been a big fan of HONG’s films ever since. “How can a simple tomato-picking scene make this film so interesting and marvelous,” KIM thought after seeing the scene where script writer Hyo-seop picks and eats a tomato off a tree in the house of a neighbor in The Day a Pig Fell into a Well (1996), HONG’s debut film. Being a member of HONG’s direction team was like seizing a once-in-a-lifetime chance for KIM. Throughout the shoot, KIM was always excited. “It’s like a miracle took place every day,” KIM said. When KIM told HONG that she wanted to work with him for one more film, her life took a sudden turn.
KIM’s involvement resulted in a dramatic turn of HONG’s cinematic philosophies. At that time, HONG was bound up in creating a unique film production system only for him. Although HONG founded Jeonwonsa Film Co., he had trouble finding a good manager for the firm. HONG asked KIM to do the job. His own unique way of making films was finally created when KIM joined the company. The unique way is to produce a film by decreasing budgets, the number of staff members and the volume of shooting a great deal, independently inducing investors and asking actors to help.
KIM’s talent is displayed mostly at filming sites. It is now well known but still almost unbelievable that HONG calls actors one day and shoots the film the next. HONG has several important memos or impressions, locations and only a rough shooting schedule but does not have a scenario or continuity. At shooting sites, HONG, actors and the staff begin to shoot a film without a detailed plan. “I do so as I am curious about what will happen,” HONG has frequently mentioned.
But to producer KIM, such shooting sites are where she cannot prepare anything beforehand but is able to shine. KIM says that this never poses a problem for her. However, it is easier said than done. People usually praise KIM’s ability when they witness tensions or unexpected situations at HONG’s shooting sites and the miraculous moments that such tensions and situations create. That is to say, KIM is at the center of all things that make HONG’s films possible.
“I love this work. So I’ve never thought about how long I will be able to do this,” KIM said.
“I think I will do this work until I am fed up of with it. The time I will quit this work will be…. Well, the day HONG will pass away?” The day HONG quits making films will be the day KIM will quit her job. But it seems unlikely to happen soon. So KIM will probably remain HONG’s partner forever just like her words.
By JUNG Han-seok